Much to AS Roma’s delight, Chelsea have joined Manchester City in a megabucks bunfight for Giallorossi center-half Mehdi Benatia that has the potential to get seriously out of hand.
The Express suggest City had already agreed personal terms with the 27-year-old, who formed an adult portion of the Roman road-block that earned Rudi Garcia’s men a Serie A silver medal last term, only for Stamford Bridge to steam in with an offer of £18m plus Romelu Lukaku worth £38m in total.
Benatia’s quality is not up for debate, but with other areas of the Chelsea squad in more need of refurbishment ahead of their 9/4-rated 2014/15 Premier League title push, the Blues’ talent scouts wouldn’t have to look too much further to find alternatives that offer better value for money.
Here are two bargain Benatia alternatives who also receive their paycheck at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico (values courtesy of transfermarkt.com):
Leandro Castan, 27, €9m
Despite playing 30 times for the Giallorossi in 2012/13, the campaign before the arrival of Benatia and boss Garcia, it would be unfair to tar the Brazilian with the brush of previous porous regimes, with goals always likely to be leaked in a side that was geared towards gung-ho attack.
This term Castan has been rock-solid alongside Benatia in a central-defence that would have beaten Juventus’ three-man ensemble to the prize of Serie A’s most parsimonious were it not for Roma taking their foot off the gas at the point when the Scudetto went beyond their reach.
During 2013/14 he won a healthy 16 more tackles than his Moroccan mucker, also winning a greater percentage of in-game duels than his teammate and blocking six more shots.
Luca Antei, 22, €1m
After an inglorious loan spell at Grosetto in 2012/13 saw his temporary team relegated bottom of Serie B, few can have expected the Rome-born former Italy Under-21 to have been a machine for Sassuolo the following season.
The Neroverdi avoided demotion by the skin of their teeth in their maiden top-flight campaign and Antei weighed in with a whopping average of four tackles, 3.7 interceptions, 2.5 aerial duels won and 5.9 clearances an outing, playing a huge part in their survival.
With youth on his side and having already shown the strength of character to come back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in 2012, the youngster looks set for big things.